We live in such unpredictable times, where everything changes at the speed of light, be it business models, ways of interaction, work processes and customer’s needs and expectations.
This pandemic has also put its mark on the way businesses innovate their way to reach out to customers, accelerating or prioritizing the digitalization process. All brands around the world are starting to strengthen their online identity by aligning with the best practices and trends.
And this is a process that deserves your understanding. You have the idea, and flawless implementation is key to crafting a trustworthy brand that is here to stay no matter the challenge. Be it a large e-commerce store, a modern presentation website or an innovative app, there’s a long list of questions that may arise before, during and after the software development process of your project.
Some of them can really mess things up, so we answered them and offered some professional advice on the most burning questions clients have when it comes to web development & Co.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What is a browser
- What is web hosting and a domain name
- What does web development mean – also, mobile and app development
- How does a web development workflow look like
- Why is web development important
- What is Front-End and what is Back-End
- What is a CMS software, but also what is a CRM
- What is an API
- What do you mean by clearing the cache
- What are cookies on a website
- What is a microsite
- All about staging and production for big, enterprise software projects
Most common terms & requests from clients:
What you should know before starting an online business
As designers, developers, and IT managers, we’ve learned a lot from our experiences. And knowledge is power to everyone – our team, our partners, our customers.
While it’s hard to skip the thrills and frills of developing a web project, this guide will help you see the bigger picture, prioritize quality over quantity, make better decisions and build a brand that is here to stay for your customers and community.
What is a Browser?
A browser is the main thing we use when surfing the web, the software application that helps you search online. Surely you’re familiar with the popular classics, such as Internet Explorer, Opera or Mozilla, and the modern ones such as Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge. If you want to launch a web project these days, it is important that the website can support the most popular ones used by your audience. The most popular browsers are Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera. Keep in mind that IE is no longer developed and is used by a very limited audience.
What is Web Hosting? Hosting vs. Domain
It is normal to meet clients who ask their web design and development provider about hosting their website. But these web services do not include hosting in general, and clients should be educated about the differences.
In order to view or have a functioning website, e-commerce, landing page, any web page on the Internet, it must be hosted (or stored) on servers (special computers). Depending on your chosen provider and hosting package, you can benefit from faster and more reliable servers. There are hosting service providers who can help clients with everything. A web design and development company can usually offer recommendations about the right hosting provider.
When you want to build a website, the first thing you need is a domain name and a hosting provider. The domain name is exactly what it seems: the name of your website that appears online, and also in the URLs that help users identify all particular pages of your website.
Example: In the URL https://ejump.ro/about-us/#OurValues, the domain name is ejump.ro.
There are companies that offer these two services as a package, and you only need to pay once for both and leave the provider to handle everything. A good web design and development company usually offers recommendations about the right hosting provider. We, at eJump, help our customers find a suitable provider for their unique project in terms of resources, available software, location. Drop us a line whenever you want.
What is Web Development?
We should clarify that web design is part of web development. In short, web development represents all the work needed to create, develop and launch a website or a responsive web app on the Internet.
What about Mobile or App Development?
The same applies here: mobile development services refer to coding and developing mobile apps that run on Android or iOS and need more specific work, as well as different coding languages. App development may refer to both web and mobile apps. A web app is not considered a mobile app, but a responsive application that runs on web browsers. A web app CAN be responsive or mobile-friendly.
How a Web Development Process looks like (including the design part)
There are a few web development services that represent the main stages of a digital project: web design, implementation (coding, or the actual “web development”, as many of us understand), and maintenance. We didn’t mention testing because it is included in every stage (at least according to our workflow).
Because many international clients aren’t familiar with these three development stages, we’ll shed some light and explain each of them in short. After that, anyone with an online business or dream project would know what to expect and what to ask for.
1) Design Stage
Design is the first stage, obviously: your designer will provide the visual format of website pages (PNG, PSD files, or other types). Here, the client gets the pictures of how the website would look like, either on mobile or desktop (or both). The design stage could take several days or months, depending on the client’s initial brief, available resources, rounds of feedback, and unexpected changes he might request during the process.
In case the client is looking for a great logo design, the best step is to complete this stage before the website or app design, in order to build a strong brand identity online. If custom responsive designs are requested, as well, this stage is perfect to complete them.
New to web design stuff? Read our Web Design 101: Common Terms, Requests & Questions from Clients
2) Coding Stage
After the design part, it is time for the implementation of the final layouts approved by the client. A developer or a team of developers will code and test them properly to create a fully functional website (or app). IT professionals will use coding and/or programming (that includes logical thinking, a creative problem-solving mindset and various programming languages and technologies, SQL databases, agile methodologies).
If custom responsiveness is required, now is the best moment to complete it.
In this stage, the client should provide clear specifications (or follow the developer’s advice) on the technical aspects (site structure, functionalities and features, web development technologies).
3) Maintenance Stage (highly recommended)
So many times people neglect this, but sooner or later, it becomes a necessity. We live in a fast-paced, hyper-digital world where you need to stay up to date with anything – and protect yourself from cyber-attacks. Only after launching a website, eCommerce or application, the real, constant work starts. Web development is not just about building a website but keeping it constantly secure and updated in order to serve your audiences and their ever-changing needs, and also prevent issues that could cost you a lot (money, security, reputation).
Maintenance is about essential must-dos: updating platforms and plugins to avoid security risks, performing server migrations and malware removals, creating or adding features. Usually, it’s best to choose maintenance to avoid any crashes or issues (especially if it’s an online store).
We also offer maintenance plans to protect our customers’ online businesses. Reach out to us if you have any questions or need help with that. We’re here to assist you along the way.
How can Web Development be used?
To reach out to people, share, and sell their expertise, products, or services to audiences across the world. To bring more meaning into people’s lives, to innovate and change the modern world, and/or to make a decent living out of it.
All in all, web development is crucial for any online business, either small or large companies, local or international NGOs or any personal project that someone wants to share with the world via the Internet.
So, you could say web development helps people reach such goals by providing the right communication channels. These digital projects are a means of communication with different customers around the world, products that can become very profitable when done right. And here comes the web developers’ role.
Why is Web Development important nowadays?
People need web development to:
- Launch a personal project you love (an artistic portfolio, a well-written blog, a great coaching website, a cool magazine or a premium website for wine connoisseurs),
- Present and promote your new business (a presentation website, a landing page to promote your cool service or product, an online hub, an innovative ride-sharing app, a complex e-commerce, or a modern travel web app)
- Share knowledge and important information (online newspapers, hubs, and international think tank websites)
- Help different communities or develop meaningful businesses (hubs and platforms for professionals, online forums, management apps)
- Gamify your workplace (internal SaaS or gamification platforms, responsive apps for Kinect and other devices)
- Raise money for different causes or humanitarian projects (web apps or platforms with multiple integrations, for example)
Web development vs Software Development
That’s a tricky one, right? As an IT client, you might find these two concepts confusing: now that you have a clue about what web development services are, what about software development? Aren’t these the same thing?
Yes, if we consider that software programs can also operate on the web, or that there are websites that rely on web-based software.
No, if you want to go deeper with particularities and understand as much as possible. Web development uses code to build websites (or web apps) for general users, while software dev focuses more on building programs and apps used in computer systems.
Think about all the computer games you love to play, the management programs that you use on a daily basis to track your activities or budget, the Microsoft suite, the browsers installed on your laptop, or communication software such as Slack or Skype. All of them are software.
Software development encompasses web development, app, and mobile development.
What is Front-End & Back-End Development?
Oh, these burning questions! There are two main parts of web development: front-end and back-end.
Front-end development refers to what you see in your browser, for example, the visual interface of a website or an app, and this is why it’s called the client-side. Front-end is all about the design, the look and feel of a web project and focuses more on user experience and interaction with the web product (website or app). And it is used for more static websites that look beautiful and engage with users as intuitively as possible.
Front-end development usually refers to any type of website (presentation websites, blogs, landing pages) and web app that has a design that users interact within a browser.
When it comes to back-end development services, these refer to all that happens “behind the scenes” :). Technically, back-end means the server-side that users don’t see: all functionalities, integrations, and communication that happens between a server, an application, and a database.
It’s all about how the website or app works, how everything is connected so that your customers can interact with your online business or project. The back-end is used for dynamic websites and projects that use a lot of databases and integrations. Apps such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google Maps or complex mobile apps – they all require flawless back-end.
What is CMS software? What is the best CRM?
There are so many moments when we talk with clients about recommended CMS/CRM for their businesses or they ask us about these aspects. But not many understand the difference between them.
CMS stands for Content Management System – it refers to creating, editing, publishing, and managing your website content. The best example of a CMS software is WordPress, which helps most businesses to handle their website without the constant help of a team of coders. And this CMS helps you and different members of your team to handle the content the easy way. We usually recommend it to most of our clients, with either small or large businesses.
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and refers to clients and customers’ management, as the name implies. This is usually needed later in your marketing and sales efforts and business relationships when you start to grow your database of clients, and you need more detailed insights about their buying journeys. In short, a CRM is a tool that helps businesses gather and keep track of a growing customer database: emails, phone numbers and other customer details, potential leads, purchase history or support requests, email campaigns and follow-ups, analytics on sales and conversions.
What is an API and how does it work?
When we talk with various clients about API, we usually refer to API integrations for online payments, maps (in the Contact pages, for example), for easy logins (with Facebook, LinkedIn, or other accounts). Today, API is a fairly common term in the web and software development, being an abbreviation for Application Programming Interface – technically speaking.
First, there are local servers (set on your computer), and remote servers, that are set on another computer (optimized to process many requests).
- Local servers are usually used by coders and engineers to build clients’ websites or apps, before launching them online. This is a best practice to develop and test a web project, before going live.
- But when you access a web page in your browser, your computer connects to a remote server (located somewhere), and receives necessary data back from it, to show you that web page.
All web pages are located on remote servers. To put it simply, your browser makes a request to a remote server every time you want to access a web page. The specific server where this page is located and wants to access (aka to send a request to) is called an API.
But remember that an API is not equal to a remote server – it’s just the PART responsible for receiving requests and sending responses. Let’s take some examples to better understand how you will use APIs for your online business (most of today’s websites and apps use APIs):
APIs for online booking
Let’s say you own a health clinic, an event company, or a meditation center (or anything else). If you want to help your customers make appointments through your business’ website, then you may use a form that automatically integrates Google Calendar, to make it easier to book appointments and see them in the calendar. To do that, your website will send a request to Google’s server to create these events. The server will process and respond back to the browser, with a confirmation email or message to users, for example.
When you search how the weather is on Google (or maybe you have the app on your smartphone), a visual snippet appears, with all the details you want (city, hour, temperature, humidity and so on). This is thanks to a third-party weather API that send all the requested information to Google (which shows you in a more beautiful format)
With this type of API, you allow your website or app users to provide their location, to locate the position and provide personalized information. Also, when you want to implement a Google Map on your Contact page, for example, you will use a specific API key to let your customers find you easily on the map.
APIs for log-in options
Maybe you noticed how some websites require log-in using one of your social media accounts, for example. Or, maybe you want to help your customers with such easy log-in functionality on your business’ website. This is possible thanks to API integration!
API for online payments
Every eCommerce store that allows customers to buy products online uses third-party payment processors – meaning, APIs. Whenever you want to pay for something you order online – or if you want to help your customers do that – you need a payment functionality that uses a certain API to ensure this is possible in the most secure way.
Technically speaking, when the user clicks on “Pay with Stripe (or PayPal)”, the website or app sends a request to the payment provider’s API with necessary details about the order, then it is processed, confirmed through pop-up authentication, and finally, the API sends a payment confirmation message back.
Cache and “clearing the cache” for a page
Oh, this one is one of the most common concepts clients don’t fully understand, and it’s normal to happen. We often advise clients to “clear the cache” before checking a new update, a new design, a new feature, or new functionality we implemented on their website. Otherwise, it is possible to not see the updated version of the modified web page, right away. It’s not always like that, but it happens.
Why does this happen?
Cache refers to a temporary data storage area that is shown to users. It is faster to load a cached version rather than re-fetching and re-calculating the original data, over and over again, every time someone accesses a web page. Sometimes the browser knows when to fetch the new data and show you the updated version, and sometimes it doesn’t.
To put it simply: when you access a website for the first time, it’s cache version is stored in your computer, so that every time you access that website again, you see the cached data. It is quicker than waiting for the browser to load it every single time.
When someone changes data, it’s still the cached version that appears to users for a while – unless they clear the cache. Let’s say you work with a developer to implement new features or redesigns on your business website. If it happens to not see the updates, try to clear cache with keyboard shortcuts, such as Ctrl + Shift + R or Ctrl + F5 or Shift +F5 (for Chrome browser). Clearing cache, in this case, means overriding the locally cached version, and it is different from just refreshing or reloading a page on the Internet.
These past two years were tough on cookies because of the whole GDPR situation 🙂 Although they’re not often mentioned in the EU General Data Protection Regulation, the consequences of using cookies inappropriately can dramatically affect a business. Since each website on the Internet uses them, you just have to make sure you use them by the book.
A cookie is a small piece of data that is sent to your computer when visiting a web page. Every time you visit again, those cookies allow your browser to be recognized by that web page. They are necessary for technical aspects, but also to improve performance and allow certain functionalities, or to provide statistics (ex: Google Analytics) and important information to website owners in order to improve marketing efforts and online user experience.
What is a microsite?
The name speaks for itself: a microsite is a smaller website of… your website. Depending on your marketing efforts, sometimes you might want to launch a special project with a specific purpose and branded content, that is related to your main one, yet independent.
So this is a microsite: a branded site that has its own, separate domain, apart from your main website. Its purpose is usually to promote a particular campaign that needs its own strategy and online place, and lasts for a shorter period than the official site. Or you can choose to develop a microsite dedicated to niche content, and attract as many visitors as possible.
Staging and Production: What You Should Know When Launching an Enterprise or Software Project
Our team works for all sorts of projects, from simple presentation websites or web apps, to more software, e-commerce platforms, or business applications. For the latter ones, web development work should follow the best practices to ensure successful functioning.
In the development phase, as the name implies, your team of web developers will code, implement, build and update the project on an ongoing basis (if needed), but not live (or in an enterprise system directly!) on a local server.
Then, the project is deployed to the staging environment, where developers can thoroughly check the deployment procedures to make sure the code works as planned, according to the documentation provided by the client, and that it’s ready for production, without any problem. The project is tested by actual users (a small test group) and/or dedicated testers, to confirm that everything will work as it should in the production environment – in collaboration with the client and/or the manager of the project.
If everything works perfectly as planned and all tests are completed, the web development project goes to the production environment, where the IT team releases the final version to be used by clients or customers (the end-users).
Difference between Staging and Production
Staging mirrors the production environment and refers to a testing environment that is more controlled. Also, this is where developers can show you, as a client, a demo version of the project and where you can provide final feedback to polish things up. Production is where users access the final code version – thus, the software product itself – hopefully without any major errors or bugs. And it’s the most important part, because it’s up and running.
Automatic Deployment: when do you need it?
Deployment is the process of developing a website, a software or an app, testing it thoroughly, and preparing it for a live server – in short, deploying the web project on a hosting platform. There are two ways of deploying: manually and automatically. The manual process means that the developers have to copy all the files from their server (the machine where they’ve worked and build the web project) to the client’s server (the hosting platform they chose to have the website or app live).
The best scenario is to have an automatic deployment, especially for apps and software that needs frequent updates as they grow. This way:
- all the work is simplified and is free of human errors
- every time the developers update or build a new feature, the deployment is automatically completed
- the IT team can build a series of automatic tests that would run much faster and on an ongoing basis (24/7) to check if everything works as they should
- if automatic tests check the web project and find errors, this is done before the automatic deployment, which allows developers to repair them.
To sum it up…
We’re sure there are plenty of other concepts and burning questions that you, as a potential client, have for web development companies that could help you develop your business online. But we also hope that you will find some great answers in this guide and that you’ll reach out to us whenever you need it.
If our clients’ job is to use their expertise in their field without worrying about all the IT stuff, our function is to provide them convincing design solutions, flawless development, and maintenance services, in a timely manner.